In truth, I had very little idea of what to expect before travelling to Buenos Aires as no one in my family or circle of friends at home had ever been. Minus the bits of information I was able to piece together from reading blogs and watching vlogs, I came to Buenos Aires not knowing what to expect. Having now been here for 3 months, here are 7 things that I wish I knew before arriving.
1. How to Get from the International Airport to the City Centre
If you are coming from abroad, then the likelihood is that you will fly in to Ministro Pistarini International Airport, more commonly known as Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). This airport is 32km from the city centre, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead how you will want to get to the centre. I opted to take the ‘Tienda Leon’ shuttle bus service which runs regularly from the airport and drops off at Terminal Madero, close to Retiro bus and train station, which is just north of Microcentro. The 1 hour journey (traffic depending) costs around $350ARS (as of Sept. 2018) and is therefore far cheaper than taking a taxi. However, if your accommodation is far away from Retiro and requires you to change to other transportation methods to get to, like the subway, then you may want to consider hiring a remis, which is a private car, directly from the airport. (If you want to have a peace of mind on your arrival, you can also simply book the airport transfer service with Vamos Spanish and they will take care of all the details for you.)
TIP-1: Have a few pesos or even a couple of dollar bills handy for the person that helps load and unload your luggage on and off the bus. Not just a tip for the airport, but anytime you get a long distance bus in the country!
TIP-2: It is not recommended to just grab a taxi at the taxi stand outside of the airport. Best practice is to hire a remis from one of the remis company stands, so you have the time to communicate and pay before get into any car.
2. Two Weeks is Simply Not Enough
When I came to Buenos Aires in September, I originally only planned to stay for 2 weeks. 3 months later, and I’m still here! There are literally hundreds of things to do and see in the city itself, and there’re always different things happening on weekends such as parades or festivals. Besides all of the things to do, I think it is worthwhile staying in Buenos Aires for as long as possible to get a real taste of the life here and in the different areas and neighborhoods of the city – it is really interesting to experience the stark differences between La Boca and Palermo for example.
TIP: There are many day trips you can take from Buenos Aires – why not take a short train ride to Tigre Delta, the ferry to Colonia, Uruguay or a bus ride to La Plata for the day?
3. How to Navigate the Public Transport System
The public transport system in Buenos Aires is a vast network, and can feel overwhelming when you first arrive. However, it is actually relatively easy to navigate once you figure out the basics. The first step is to purchase a ‘SUBE’ card which can be bought from virtually any kiosk in the city for a small price, and then you can top the card up in the same kiosk to use the colectivos (buses) or Subte underground. Buses in Buenos Aires run all week and most operate a night service so there is no need to panic if you end up in a boliche (dance club) on the other side of the city from your accommodation! Public transport is efficient and extremely cheap in Buenos Aires (in my city, one bus journey costs £2.30- here it costs around £0.15!). Not to mention the fact that the SUBE card eliminates the need to constantly carry small change for the bus.
TIP: As of 20th November 2018, the fare to use the Subte will rise AR$1 per month until February 2019, so keep an eye on that balance! Don’t panic if you end up on AR$0 though, as the SUBE card allows you to ‘owe’ up to AR$30, that’s two journeys on the Subte as of writing.
4. Nights Out are Fun, but also a Test of Stamina
If you want to experience the famous Buenos Aires nightlife like a local, you should be aware that most clubs, or “boliches”, don’t open until after 1AM, and only start getting busy at 2:00! This can be quite a culture shock for those of us used to grabbing some fast food at 3AM before heading home to sleep off the alcohol. In Buenos Aires, however, eating dinner as late as 10PM is completely normal so it’s hardly surprising that the nightlife begins so late. Returning home at 7 or 8AM is a rite of passage for the young people of Buenos Aires, and walking home from a night out while many people are heading to work is interesting for non-locals to experience at least once.
TIP: If the thought of staying out so late fills you with dread, don’t panic- there are dozens of cool and fun places to go at night and still make it home before sunrise! We have hand-picked 6 of the best here in our
“Best Bars in Buenos Aires” blog.
5. A little Spanish goes a Long Way
As with visiting any non-English speaking country, it is good courtesy to at least know the basics of the language world that you are about to enter in to. While Argentines are warm, patient and will be happy to help with the language barrier, it is useful to learn some stock phrases before arriving so you can at least introduce yourself. Before I arrived, I spent a couple of weeks listening to Podcasts and using language apps to help grasp the very basics of this fascinating language.
TIP: As well as using podcasts, apps and books, you can get daily tips from our very own Vamos Spanish Twitter feed to pick up useful vocabulary and expressions before you arrive. Follow Us HERE.
6. Meeting People and Making New Friends Are Easy
As this was my first solo travel experience, I was naturally a little nervous about being alone and was keen to meet new people. I should have not feared at all, as throughout the week in Buenos Aires there are plenty of events aimed at helping people like me to make new friends, practice Spanish and have fun. Whether it’s wine tasting with Spanglish, playing football through the FC Bafa app, or drinking copious amounts of mate at Mate Club, there are dozens of opportunities to meet locals and other expats.
TIP: Here at Vamos, we organise activities throughout the week to enable our students to get to know each other more. We also aim to help students practice what they have learnt in school by going to one of the many language exchanges in Buenos Aires!
7. The “Porteños” are Extremely Welcoming
They say that the people are truly what makes a place, and there is no doubt that the locals of Buenos Aires, or “porteños” as they are colloquially known, are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Whether you’re taking a taxi, on the bus, or getting a haircut, you can be sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to practise your Spanish as the locals, despite receiving millions of tourists every year, are seemingly always curious to find out ‘¿De dónde sos?’ (Where are you from?) A word of warning though, porteños love to chat so make sure you don’t get too engrossed in the conversation and miss your bus stop!
TIP: When speaking to a porteño, listen closely- as well as improving your Spanish, you may be able to pick up some ‘Lunfardo’, the slang of Buenos Aires. Occasionally, we have workshops here at Vamos to help you with the basics of this jargon, as well as learning about its fascinating origins and history.
Contributed by Liam who is exploring and experiencing life in Buenos Aires while studying Spanish at Vamos Spanish Academy.